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Archive for the ‘A Nation Divided’ Category

Exquisite

A very special blog by my friend and author, Kathleen Brown. If you are a caregiver please take a moment and allow God to replenish your soul as you read Kathleen’s message from The Father.

Alzheimer's: Hope and Help for Caregivers

This is not new information: Every caregiving path is different. As different as each caregiver and the person he cares for, as different as the relationship between them has been and is, as different as their environment and lifestyle and family or lack of family—as different as each of our lives is different. But unique as we are, caregivers recognize each other. With a pang of empathy and immediate respect, we recognize each other.

On Easter Sunday, my husband and I met one of my sons and his family at a restaurant for brunch. At a big round table in a beautiful dining room, our oldest son and his wife and our three senior grandchildren entertained us in the way only they can do—just by being themselves, unique individually and a unique unit in our larger family.

Though the room was full, tables were arranged so everyone had plenty of…

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 A promise of whats to come 4

We study about, talk about, and read about history, but our view of history is so narrow—generally focused on the span of our lives—give or take a few years. Or about a hundred years.

That’s why God gave us sixty-six books of His story. His life, death, life story. So, we would have a constant reminder His plan is far beyond our peep-hole into past, present, and future.  God’s view of history encompasses the beginning through all eternity.

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Scripture tells us: “Whatever things were written in earlier times were written for our instruction, that through perseverance and study of the scriptures, we might have hope” (Romans 15:4 NAS).

But we moan and groan, I don’t understand the Bible. So many words, all the thee’s and thou’s. It’s so confusing. And I just don’t have time to sort out all that stuff.  We can’t understand. Without the stirring power of the Holy Spirit inside our heart and soul, we can’t possibly understand God, His Word, or even believe that Jesus is His Only Son and our only Savior. But every one of us, believer or not, has clearly seen the evidences of God.

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Romans 1:20 says:

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, HAVE BEEN CLEARLY SEEN, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

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There is a warfare beyond our ability to comprehend, a battle that began when Satan desired to be greater than God. And then Adam and Eve chose to believe Satan’s deception, rather than believe their Creator—the Holy God of the Universe. So, if you haven’t received Truth, being sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, you can’t tell the difference between God’s Truth or Satan’s lies. But God says “…we are without excuse.”  Because we know that He is and always will be God. And there will be consequences for your choices. Eternal consequences–for life or for separation.

But my question to you today is: What happens to believers when God judges His people during their time of disobedience? I look back at the Nation of Israel in the Books of I and II Samuel, I and II Kings, and I and II Chronicles, and then to the Books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Lamentations, I see the application in the high definition color of consequences.

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Yes, consequences! A word we’ve failed to define, acknowledge, and teach our children. But God will teach them, and they will learn, the hard way. Because throughout all history His promises show us what is sure to come.

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Let’s go to the Book of Jeremiah and find out what happened to one certain family—good people who were stuck in the middle of God’s judgment. The Rechabites. Ever heard of them? No? I hadn’t either until we studied Jeremiah in Precept Bible Study this year.

Chapter 35 of Jeremiah is all about these nomadic people. God told Jeremiah to call them to the House of the Lord and give them wine to drink. My mind shouted, “Why, God? Why? In the middle of all this battle and judgment would You bringing them into the House of God for a wine tasting?”

But the prophet did what he was told, and when the men came, Jeremiah set out pitchers full of wine and cups and said to them, “Drink wine!”

“But they said, ‘We will not drink wine, for Jonadah the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us saying, ‘You shall not drink wine, you or your sons, forever…We have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son or Rechab, our father, in all that he commanded us, not to drink wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons and our daughters…” (Jeremiah 35:5-8 NAS).

And God used the obedience of these men to speak volumes to the whole nation of Israel saying:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Go and say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, “Will you not receive instruction by listening to My words?” declares the Lord. “The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, which he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are observed. So they do not drink wine to this day, FOR THEY HAVE OBEYED THEIR FATHER’S COMMAND. But I have spoken to you again and again; yet you have not listened to Me” (Jeremiah 35:13-14 NAS).

“Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, “Behold, I am bringing on Judah and on all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the disaster that I have pronounced against them because I spoke to them but they did not listen, and I have called them but they did not answer” (Jeremiah 35:17 NAS).

Then Jeremiah delivered God’s message to these faithful Rechabites:

“Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father, kept all his commands and done according to all that he commanded you; therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me always” ‘ (Jeremiah 35:18-19 NAS).

WOW! How would you like to hear those words uttered about you and your family, and know the promise of standing before God extended to you, your children, and all the grands forever?

A promise of whats to come

Did the Rechabites have to go through the destruction of Judah? Most certainly, but God spared them. They had to endure the battle, see the destruction, live in post-war poverty. However, they also had the promise of God their family would not only be spared, they would stand before God forever.

I don’t know about you, but as we look at our nation and the world can’t we draw a parallel? Hasn’t God spoken to America as a nation, as individuals, and as families? Yet the grand majority refuse to listen. He has called us again and again, but sadly again the grand majority have not answered…and I’m talking about the 11 o’clock crowd on Sunday morning.

Remember the people in this Chapter of Jeremiah were God’s chosen people run amuck. They brought their sacrifices to the temple on the Sabbath. But they remained unchanged. Rebellious, proud, arrogant people who wanted to be more like the world than the God who called them to be “a peculiar people of His own choosing. A holy people.”

Over and over throughout the Old Testament God repeated: “Do not move the ancient boundaries.” We’ve not only moved the boundaries God gave us, we’ve leaped over them, then turned and chopped ’em in pieces.

Where does the Spirit of the Lord find you today? Like the obedient Rechabites who obeyed the teaching of their fathers regardless what the rest of the world did? Or like the people of Judah whose pride lay in the fact they were “chosen,” but had no desire to be holy, and refused to become “a peculiar people of His own choosing.”

Choose carefully, dear friend, because God has promised us what’s to come! It’s clearly seen in all His creation.

NOTE:  For more information on the Rechabites and Jonadab, see Amos 1:9

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This Saturday morning in Dallas, Texas, dawned partly cloudy. A pleasant spring day stretched before me as I bowed my head and poured out my praise for the joy-filled celebration sure to come in the morning—Easter Sunday morning!

But my thoughts braked and turned back to that Saturday morning over 2,000 years ago. Have you ever thought how the disciples must’ve waked up feeling that day? Perhaps they hadn’t slept much the previous night. Perhaps Mary didn’t sleep at all. Remembering all those years—the baby, that day coming from the temple, the wedding miracle—and the…the brutal tragedy…the pain…the loss—

Could be you’re right there with them this morning—a grief, a loss, a pain you don’t have the strength to handle.

Perhaps these men who’d been with Jesus every day for over three years, didn’t know what to do with the unspeakable emptiness, guilt, and fear this morning brought. Maybe they grabbed their nets and headed for the boats like the walking dead. Dreams crushed, hearts mangled, and the pictures of their crucified Messiah splattered across their minds’ eyes.

Nothing to live for, I’m sure the evil one whispered to each of them in his first-person-singular with a Jewish hiss. Less we rush by this twenty-four hour span of time, think about their despair, and remember they didn’t understand the rest of the story. They didn’t have a Bible to pick up and find comfort and understanding from the Words of God.

Remember the time—the day after you’ve watched a loved one laid in the grave. And consider how you felt. And you know the rest of the story. They didn’t…or their wounded minds wouldn’t allow them to connect the dots.

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I’m sure their Saturday was a blur of depression beyond our ability to conceive. So why should we ponder the disciples’ Saturday? So when our times of unbelievable tragedy and grief visit our days, and they will, we can raise our eyes and remember:

“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore, I have hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him…For the Lord will not reject forever, for if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness” (Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-32 NAS).

If only they’d understood, but they didn’t have the whole story.

We do! But I’m afraid we rush right over the times of tragedy in our lives, racing to get to the good parts. Failing to understand learning takes place during hard times, the painful moments, when our hearts are humbled. We are always in a hurry…seeking comfort rather than sitting silent and learning from the pain.

Saturday night I’m sure they all tossed and turned, probably nightmares of the crucifixion stormed their dreams.

But what a difference a day makes! As the joy of Jesus’ resurrection exploded their sorrow, they rushed to the empty tomb! Weeping! Remembering! Rejoicing!

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Would that the next time you’re consumed and overcome with grief you’d remember. Remember that one day, in a moment, in the twinkling of eye, you’ll stand face to face with King Jesus—see the love in His eyes and the splendor of His glory will explode all the sorrows you’ve ever known.

Have a blessed Easter. An Easter to remember how much God loves you—enough to die just for you!

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The Devils Believe!

Another post by friend and author Ernie Carrasco. A post filled with truth and one of the main reasons I write “Moving the Ancient Boundaries.” For years I knew about God, believed He was God, but that there was no redemption for me…I believed the lies of Satan and was lost as a goose…even though I grew up in church. I thought there was no hope for me. But God desires that none will perish. It is our choice. Please read Ernie’s post. Search the scriptures, and like me you will find Jesus waits…His nail scarred arms open wide. He suffered and died for you! For me! But you must choose Jesus, believe He is The Way. The Truth and the Life and that all who come to Him will have eternal life…now and forever! And choose to walk in obedience to Him, because His blood washes you white as snow!

 

Ernie's Musings

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (James 2:19)

I do not run into many Christians these days except at church or at the Christian ministry where I work. Oh, I am certain that they are out there, and it is possible that I encounter them everywhere I go; I just cannot tell them apart from non-Christians. A recent Barna study[1] on the state of the Church in America revealed that while 75% of Americans pray to God, 35% attend a church service, 34% read the Bible, 19% volunteer at a non-profit, 18% volunteer at church, 17% attend adult Sunday school and 16% attend small group.

Judging from those statistics, it seems that at least ¾ of Americans acknowledge God. The 35% and 34% that attend church and read their Bible are pretty much the same group of…

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The Trinity

A clear and concise explanation of our Triune God by my friend and fellow author, Ernie Carrasco.

Ernie's Musings

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is a hard concept to grasp, much less explain cogently. Explaining the Trinity becomes even more challenging the inquisitor is ignorant of Christian tenets. I experienced such a challenge this week when I received an email from a Jew who was curious about the topic. His email follows:

I just visited in your site. I’m a 40yo Jew from Israel. I understand that you guys [ICR] are Christians. When I ran into this:

“The Creator of the universe is a triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is only one eternal and transcendent God, the source of…

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“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV).

Fox News carried an interview last evening with a man appearing to be wrapped in the evil tendrils of deception he couldn’t sit still. His eyes were wide and flamed and his speech rushed out of his mouth while his body bounced and shook.

At first I mistook his demeanor as being fervent about the subject, but the longer he chattered, almost without taking a breath, the deeper he slipped into that dark place where truth held no substance, but a return to power of his former leader’s community organizing agenda sparked him giddy.

“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh if from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (1 John 6:2-3 NIV).

And so it was in the days of Zedekiah, king of Judah. The year is 586 B.C. and Judah has been engaged with Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, since 605 B.C.—you do the math. The king of Babylon by this time has carried possibly as many as fifteen thousand or more Jews into captivity, and in 597 B.C. King Neb appointed Zedekiah to be a puppet king. And puppet he was. A real politician who aimed to please everyone, but ended up pleasing no one. Especially not God.

God told them through Jeremiah, to go peacefully to Babylon. But peaceful was not in their vocabulary and the leaders demanded Zedekiah put Jeremiah to death. They couldn’t bear to hear truth, but chose to believe lies. And I can see the picture in my mind’s eye—Zedekiah, in an unkinglike fashion, throwing up his hands and sighing: “Behold he is in your hands; for the king, can do nothing against you” (Jeremiah 38:5 NIV).

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Have you bowed to the evening news as your source of information, or is God your standard and source of truth?

So, this group of arrogant, ungodly leaders who refused to listen to the words of God, grabbed Jeremiah and cast him into a deep cistern in the court of the guardhouse. Scripture tells us there was no standing water in the well, but there was mud. Lots of yucky mud. And Jeremiah sank in this putrid muck.

The 38th Chapter of Jeremiah paints the account of Jeremiah’s plight and how God used a seemingly insignificant man to save him. And for all of you who deem yourselves insignificant, you have no idea how God can and will use you if you stand for righteousness…even when it seems you’re swimming upstream against a rip-tide of unrighteousness.

Jeremiah, however, was now confined to the court of the guardhouse to limit his speech. But God’s plan is never thwarted, and God was using Jeremiah to give the king yet another opportunity to listen.

Reaping and Sowing

Are you listening to the Word of the Lord today?

Zedekiah had Jeremiah brought to him at the third entrance in the house of the Lord. (A road less travelled.) The king asked God’s prophet to tell him the truth—he wanted to know God’s word to him. Really? (Jeremiah had only been telling all of Judah what God said was going to happen for at least thirty-eight years—and to this king for eleven years).

Jeremiah’s reply is also in this 38th Chapter, but Jeremiah has the courage to remark, “…if I give you advice, you will not listen to me.”

But at the king’s urging, Jeremiah repeated God’s promise even in these last hours of their rebellion. The king admitted his fear, Jeremiah reassured him God was faithful and would save him, but the king chose to listen to the priests and leaders’ deceptive words so long his heart was weak and he refused to trust the Word of the Lord. He believed men rather than the Lord God Almighty.

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Who do you choose to believe—man’s words or God’s Word?

And there are always consequences when anyone rejects God. Doesn’t matter if you believe in Him or not. He is God. This is His world. His Law. And His way. But He is full of mercy and grace and love. Love so great He sent His Only Son to pay the price for our rebellious sin against Him. The original choice to believe and trust belongs to us. “Whosoever will may come.”  But the consequences of our choices belong to the Lord our God.

Zedekiah tried to determine his own consequences when he and his men attempted escape in the darkness of night, but he was caught, brought before Nebuchadnezzar and sentence was passed. All of the nobles he bowed to were slaughtered before his eyes, and Nebuchadnezzar killed Zedekiah’s sons too…just before King Neb blotted out Zedekiah’s eyes.

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When the time for choices end, only consequences remain.

Imagine an eternity with that scene playing in the darkness of his mind. I’m sure he wished he had listened to the Word of God, but it was too late. His time for choices gone. The gavel was down and the consequences applied. Forever. The Chaldeans burned the city and broke down the walls of Jerusalem and took Zedekiah, in fetters of bronze, to Babylon. To die.

Now is the time for God’s people to fast and pray. Tomorrow may be too late.

We are at that same cross-road in America today . This nation has rejected God—for at least two generations—maybe more. Yet God keeps pleading for us to return and repent. We have an opportunity at this moment in time—perhaps like Zedekiah, the last opportunity before God’s gavel smacks the sound block, and the consequences for our rebellion are sealed. Forever. For the same reason it fell on Judah—God’s people still refusing to listen to God’s Words. Will we be weak? Deceived? Or will we be stubborn and stiff-necked, refusing to repent and return to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and soon coming King?

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“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:6-11 NIV).

 

Next week:  Insignificant? Maybe. But not in God’s eyes!

 

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                                                         Part Two

                                   SLICING, DICING, AND BURNING

Someone much wiser than me said, “It only takes a generation for a nation to turn away from God.” And the Book of Jeremiah gives the absolute proof certain of this proclamation.

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King Jehoiakim ruled in Judah from 609 B.C. until 597 B.C. He was the son of King Josiah who reigned from 630 B.C. until 609 B.C.

Josiah was a man after God’s own heart, but his son Jehoiakim, was bad-to-the-bone. Josiah cleared the land of idols, destroyed their places of worship, and found God’s word, which had been lost in the temple. (Can you imagine the Word of God being lost in the House of God? Still happens today in some churches, doesn’t it?)

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When Josiah finally heard the Word of God, he tore his clothes and commanded priests and scribes to inquire of the Lord concerning the words of the Book. His story is found in 2 Chronicles 34 and 35 and is so worth the read if you don’t know about this last good king in the land of Judah. God blessed Judah because of Josiah’s obedience. But generational sin lurked like a shroud of judgment, because Josiah’s father, King Manasseh had been the worst of the worst and that gene pool washed like a tsunami over his grandson Jehoiakim.

God sent Jeremiah the prophet, during the days of good King Josiah to remind the priests, rulers, and people of their refusal to listen and obey His Word. To remind them of the judgments He had pronounced against the granddaddy, and remind them of their urgent need to listen and repent.

When Jehoiakim inherited the throne, Jeremiah’s obedience to do what God called him to be and do, proved to be a perpetual pain in this king’s back-side. And the prophet ended up confined, unable to deliver God’s word to the people. But Jeremiah’s work was far from finished. So, the Lord told Jeremiah to take a scroll and write on it the words God spoke to him. God said, “Perhaps the house of Judah will hear all the calamity which I plan to bring on them, in order that every man will turn from his evil way; then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.”

Even while they were back at their idol worship and evil ways, God was ready to hear and forgive their sins. Just like today, over twenty-six hundred years later, God’s message is still the same. And so is every man, woman, boy and girl—the same. Full of sin without the wisdom to see their great need for salvation through Jesus Christ or the ability to save themselves from God’s judgment.

Well, Jeremiah called Baruch, the scribe, and dictated to him all the words the Lord had spoken to him. We’re not told how long the process took, but remember, God called Jeremiah to be His prophet in 627 B.C. It’s now 606 B.C. That’s a bunch-a-words folks. Written by hand, in pen and ink, on a loooong roll of parchment.

What happened next is worth reading in the 36th Chapter of Jeremiah, verses 10-21. But picture this, the king is sitting in his winter house and there’s a fire burning in the brazier in front of him.

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Jehudi unrolled the scroll and began reading—one column, two, three, and four columns. Imagine the scene, the king is obviously incensed and grabs the scribe’s knife and slices the scroll and pitches it into the fire. Then he sliced and diced the whole scroll containing the Words of God and burned it all in the fire until it was consumed!

“Yet the king and all his servants who heard all these words were not afraid, nor did they rend their garments” (Jeremiah 36:24 NIV).

I’m waitin’ for the lightning and goose-bumps raced across my body as I read this and then again as I’m typing these words to you. Remember his daddy’s reaction when he heard the Word of God? He feared and tore his clothes. Jehoiakim and his crew? Not so much.

I have every Bible I’ve ever owned and if there were a fire at my house, my Bibles would be the first thing I’d race to save. Wouldn’t you? But to cut them apart and watch ’em burn?

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Yet before we cluck our tongues and look down our noses at King Jehoiakim, don’t we reject God’s Word when we leave it in the back of the car from one Sunday ‘til the next. Never thinking about where our copy of the Word is ‘til we leave for church the following week? Or worse yet, we leave it on the end table by our chair, right next to the HD remote. Which gets more use during the week—the Word of God or the remote?

But God didn’t wring His holy hands. No, He told Jeremiah to get another scroll and repeat the process. Which Jeremiah and Baruch did, because we have the words God spoke to Jeremiah in our Bibles today. But listen carefully to the words God spoke concerning King Jehoiakim.

“You will have no one to sit on the throne of David, and your dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and frost of the night. (He wouldn’t receive a proper burial. The birds and beasts would pick his bones.) I will also punish him and his descendants and his servants for their iniquity, and I will bring on them and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah all the calamity that I have declared to them” (Jeremiah 36:29-31 NIV).

And God’s Words became reality for King Jehoiakim, the priests, and the people when Nebuchadnezzar and his great armies killed, captured and burned Jerusalem, and carried many from Judah captive to Babylon for seventy years. Why? Because they did not listen to the Words of God to obey them!

God’s Word is the same yesterday, today and forever. Neither Jehoiakim nor any of his descendants will be present in the coming kingdom. His choices brought the consequences of separation from God then, now, and forever. No more chances. His doom was sealed and God’s wrath on him was executed by the King of Babylon. Done. Finished. Forever.

But God’s mercy and grace are still available to us. How will the recount of Jehoiakim’s foolish choices and consequences resonate in your life? The words “…but they didn’t listen…” echo in my ears from 606 B.C., through the corridors of time, to today…

Am I listening? Are you listening? What choices will we make? Will we choose rewards or consequences?

“And He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death’” (Revelation 21:6-8 NIV).

 

Part Three: Weak, Deceived, Can’t Trust – Jeremiah 37 – 38

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